Diverse cultures share music, dance and art

Samoan and Tongan dancers and choirs performed throughout September for Southern California audiences as part of Polynesian Month at the Los Angeles Temple Visitors Center.

Samoan and Tongan members represented eight wards in four Los Angeles-area stakes: Long Beach North, Torrance, Downey and Inglewood. Indoor and outdoor programs featured youth and adult choirs, as well as dancers and musicians in native Samoan and Tongan costumes.Continuing the Polynesian theme, Hawaiian music and dances will be featured in programs scheduled for October. In recent months, programs have focused on Hispanic, Jewish and Korean cultures.

According to Elder Keith W. Wilcox, visitors center director, programs featuring specific cultural groups have been well-received by local Latter-day Saints and those of other faiths. He and his wife, Vira May, came to the visitors center 18 months ago. A native of Ogden, Utah, Elder Wilcox said he was "struck by the diverse cultures in the area. We wanted these groups to be a part of the visitors center. The purpose of the center is to bring souls unto Christ. We wanted these different groups to be a part of that."

By focusing on specific cultures, the Wilcoxs have seen members of other faiths drawn to the visitors center when their culture is featured in music, art, dance or family history.

"The gospel is for everyone. We believe this is a wonderful way of sharing and understanding both talents and testimonies," said Elder Wilcox.

For example, during Hispanic Cultural Month in June, programs featured arts, crafts, dance, music or family history. Performing were Brazilian pianists, Panamanian dancers, Lamanite choirs and international vocalists and instrumentalists, among others.

"We received as many as 11 referrals in one night. That is very sizable for our center," said Sister Wilcox. "We have Spanish-speaking wards throughout Southern California. Hispanic Cultural Month brought together many Church members, as well as those of other faiths, who share the same cultural background."

This was also the case when area Koreans celebrated Christmas Eve together at the visitors center. Koreans, in native costumes, came as families to celebrate together, said Sister Wilcox.

According to Brother and Sister Wilcox, the visitors center is planning programs focusing on other cultures. For instance, plans are underway for programs featuring Japanese music, dance and art.

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